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Patient celebrates 102nd birthday with her longtime doctor

Published: February 20, 2014
Willie Mae Reed, center, celebrates her birthday with her doctor, Judella Haddad-Lacle, MD, and her son, Bernard Reed. View Larger Image

If you want the secret to a long life, ask a nurse.

Willie Mae Reed, a registered nurse, always emphasized a healthy lifestyle for herself and her family, and it paid off. She turned 102 on Feb. 20.

Reed celebrated her birthday with her doctor of more than 20 years, Judella E. Haddad-Lacle, MD.

“I usually don’t tell patients to eat cake, but for you, I will,” Haddad-Lacle told Reed when she arrived for a checkup recently. The staff surprised her with a cake, cards and gifts and sang “Happy Birthday” to her.

“She’s always taken care of herself, and always gave good advice to those around her,” said Haddad-Lacle, who is medical director of UF Health Community and Family Medicine – Jacksonville.

Born and raised in Jacksonville, Reed started her career after attending the Grady Memorial Hospital School of Nursing in Atlanta. She worked many years at Jacksonville’s Brewster Hospital and also worked on board a warship when it came to Jacksonville during World War II.

Reed’s caretaker, her son Bernard Reed, said his mother is a disciplined, “God-fearing woman” who has attended Jacksonville’s Second Missionary Baptist Church for close to 70 years.

“She loves her four children, loves everybody else, and she’s always looking out for everyone.”

He said Reed’s husband, Emmett Reed, was the first black man to work for Jacksonville’s Parks and Recreation Department. The city’s Emmett Reed Community Center in Durkeeville is named in his honor.

Emmett Reed was also the first black referee at the city’s annual Florida-Georgia game, Bernard Reed said.

“We always went to the games. Once, a police officer told us, ‘Coloreds can’t sit here.’ But my mom told him, ‘We’re not colored. We’re family to the staff.’ The next time we saw that police officer, he was on parking lot duty.”

Emmett Reed died in his 50s, and his wife never remarried. In fact, she still wears her wedding rings today. Willie Mae Reed used the money he left behind to fund the down payment to build a house, and she paid off her 30-year mortgage in 15 years.

In addition to working as a nurse, she was a famously good cook, volunteered as an electoral precinct captain, and – in her 80s – traveled the world with the Live Long and Like It Senior Citizens Club, visiting England, Hawaii and Paris.

Life has slowed down since then, but Willie Mae Reed is surrounded by people who love her, who still tell the stories she no longer has the energy to tell. And her family counts her doctor, Haddad-Lacle, as an important part of her support network.

“She’s outstanding. She’s never wavered in her care for mama. We’re a team,” said Bernard Reed.

The self-proclaimed “mama’s boy” said he went all out for his mother’s birthday. As he does every year, he bought her a rose for every year of her life. This year, their house was filled to the brim with 102 beautiful blooms.

Willie Mae Reed, center, celebrates her birthday with her doctor, Judella Haddad-Lacle, MD, and her son, Bernard Reed.

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UF Health Media Relations